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Universal Grammar: Evidence from Language Acquisition - Assignment Example

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In the paper “Universal Grammar: Evidence from Language Acquisition” the author presented two types of evidence in support of Chomsky’s theory that the innate condition of the human brain at birth explained language acquisition, a process that occurs without the effort of teaching in children…
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Universal Grammar: Evidence from Language Acquisition
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Download file to see previous pages As usual, "the company" now has an earlier deadline than they had given me, despite them still not having given me the entire chapter, so I hope you're not late. Best, anon
Trask (1995) presented two types of evidence in support of Chomsky's theory that the innate condition of the human brain at birth explained language acquisition, a process that occurs without effort or direct or indirect teaching in children. First, despite the differences in the experiences of children within and across cultures, in deaf and hearing children, and in those who are and are not mentally retarded, the same stages in the same order occur in acquiring language. Second, in support of the role of the human brain at birth, there is evidence that those who have not been exposed to a language past a "critical period" of 12 or 13 years have not been able to learn the rules of a language.
Trask (1995) reviewed the evidence supporting "universal grammar," a phrase describing Chomsky's revolutionary theory of psycholinguistics, i.e., there are linguistic universals (commonalities among all languages), the human brain is equipped at birth for the acquisition of language, and thus children acquire language without either direct or indirect instruction. ...
over the history of human existence, it is disingenuous to describe the demise of the Skinnerian operant-conditioning model (referred to by Trask as the "imitation-and reinforcement model,", p. 140) as occurring "not so many years ago" or, more dramatically, "in recent years" (p. 140). One could provide pages of citations to support recognition of the brief time course of Chomsky's "revolution," but Pinker, himself a giant in psycholinguistic theory (Rondal, 1993), should suffice (interview, Rondal, 1993).
Chomsky's theory of language acquisition (beginning in 1959, cited in Pinker's interview, Rondal, 1993) quickly relegated (unusual in the social sciences) to a chapter in the history of psychology the then-accepted Skinnerian operant-conditioning theory that babies learn language by reinforcement of language imitations. Because most humans have observed babies and young children, it is understandable that social scientists, among others, would have recognized the essential correctness of implicating the brain at birth - by comparing, for example, their own struggles in learning a second language, even if in surroundings where the second language was spoken, with the ease with which children not only acquire the first language but with the ease with which immigrant children, compared to their parents, acquire a second language. Understanding why the theory that language developed as a function only of experience was accepted in the first place requires recognizing the virtual destruction of experimental psychology caused by the prior "behaviorist revolution" - which virtually outlawed even the thought of innate dispositions (Watson, 1919, as cited in Hunt & Ellis, 2004).  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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